Could it be that Detroit isn’t such a bad place to play?
It wasn’t so long ago that the Tigers were begging players to come here. They were being rebuffed by marquee free agents such as Miguel Tejada, and having to settle for Fernando Vinas and Jason Johnsons. When they did attract the big names, it was more of as a last resort. But it wasn’t just desperation, it was because the Tigers were offering substantially more money and substantially more years. Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez came here because the Tigers were the only club willing to commit to long term deals.
Yet today the Tigers have managed to lock up a player ahead of free agency. Add Jeremy Bonderman to the ever growing list of Tigers who decided to sign at-or-below-market deals to stay in Detroit. Brandon Inge re-upped for 4 more years a couple weeks ago, just one year shy of free agency.
Placido Polanco spent less than 2 months in Detroit before deciding to stick around for 4 more years without even waiting for the end of the season – and this in the middle of a career year.
Polanco’s move wasn’t unprecedented because Carlos Guillen did the same thing in 2004 agreeing to a 3 year deal when he could have made much more on the open market after a career year.
Gary Sheffield agreed to be traded here…and with a reasonable contract extension.
Even Vance Wilson probably could have done better this offseason given the dearth of catching talent, but he signed an extension midseason as well.
Players, good players, players with options, are eschewing the monster payday for a fair wage in a place that they like. I don’t know if it is the team’s performance, or if Dave Dombrowski is just a good guy to work for, or if it is that the AL Central has 4 good teams who each have a shot at the playoffs, but players are liking it in Detroit.
Jason Beck quoted Bonderman saying:
“There’s always the idea of free agency,” he admitted, “but I love the guys here. I love the team. I love everything about playing for the Tigers right now. They’re a great organization.”
It echoes Inge’s comments
“Never,” he said. “It never (entered) my mind that I’d want to be anywhere other than Detroit. It’s all I’ve known. It’s all I really want to know.”
If this means the end of the Detroit Tax in which the Tigers are extorted for boatloads of money, or simply used as leverage on the way to bigger deals (ie Pavano), then this is probably the best news of the offseason for Detroit fans.